Sunday, November 20, 2022

Tis the Season

cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows

December is almost here. It was always the shortest month in the school year for me, so I felt it necessary to accomplish as much as possible in the two and a half or three weeks of instruction available while, at the same time, celebrating the spirit of the season with my students.


Since learning to achieve sentence variety is a skill that all good writers must master, we worked on varying sentence patterns. Because I wanted to celebrate the spirit of the Christmas season, the sentences I put in the sentence combining exercises all had Christmas and winter holiday themes.


Although there is nothing wrong with sentences that begin with the subject followed by the verb, the writing becomes monotonous if a writer repeats this pattern in sentence after sentence. Most grammar checker apps will flag this writing weakness. Since ELA teachers are the official "grammar checkers" for their students, they will be watching for this also.


The best way to achieve sentence variety, is to move phrases and clauses to the beginning of some of the sentences or locate them in different positions to avoid the repetitive subject-verb pattern.



Here’s what I mean.


Original subject-verb pattern:

All my gifts sat under the tree waiting for me to open them.  




Under the tree, sat all my gifts waiting for me to open them. 


Here’s another example:


Original subject-verb pattern:

Many people send Christmas Cards to friends and relatives a few weeks before Christmas.



A few weeks before Christmas, many people send Christmas Cards to friends and relatives.



Original subject-verb pattern.

My mother insisted that we write our thank-you notes before we could play with our toys.



Before we could play with our toys, my mother insisted that we write our thank-you notes.


You can create an exercises like these for your students to practice varying sentence patterns. The more practice they have, the better their writing will become. Here’s a free one you can print or use in Easel.


Here’s a FREE resource for you to use.

A teacher with a pencil in her mouth.


I have seven more sentence patterns resources that are ready to use and include the answers. You can purchase them separately or buy them in a bundle and save 20% on the individual resources. One of them is Thanksgiving themed and another is for Christmas. I hope you will find them helpful. You will find the bundle here.


Sentence Pattern Worksheets Bundle by Charlene Tess

I hope you have a happy, healthy, and restful winter break. I will celebrate with my husband, daughters, and grandsons. We will eat entirely too much and play board games after dinner. I look forward to both.

Here are some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperate. I hope you enjoy them.

The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative

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Sunday, October 16, 2022

Writing Activities for Fall and Halloween

Halloween and things associated with the fall season present an opportunity for students to complete some enjoyable writing activities. Here are some examples you might want to try.


1. Song Lyrics 

One of my students’ favorite activities was to convert the lyrics of familiar Christmas songs to fit the themes of Halloween. After they finished their songs, those who were outgoing sang their songs to the class. Other students preferred to read their lyrics to the class or give their song to another student who was happy to perform it. Everyone had fun as they laughed and sang along.


Here’s an example of a Halloween song set to the tune of “Jingle Bells:”


Dashing through the streets 

In a costume made for play, 

Over the curbs we go 

Laughing all the way. 


Ghosts and goblins shriek 

Making spirits rise 

What fun it is to trick or treat 

A neighbor’s house tonight. 


Oh, Halloween, Halloween, 

My favorite time of year. 

Oh, what fun it is to laugh and scream in fear.


Since kids are so creative, their songs were fun to write and even more fun to sing. You could do this with any familiar song. It would not have to be a Christmas song.


2. Sentence Combining Exercises


Here’s another idea. Your students might enjoy a Halloween Sentence Combining Activity. 


Students would combine a basic kernel of sentences into one sentence that is more interesting. 

Here’s an example:


Read the kernel of basic sentences below. Combine each cluster into one well-written sentence. You may move the information into any order that you wish. Do not leave out any vital information presented in the original sentences. 


Basic Sentence Cluster:


 We carved a pumpkin. 

 The pumpkin was orange. 

 The eyes and mouth of the pumpkin were triangles. 

 We made a jack-o-lantern.



We carved triangular eyes and a mouth on an orange pumpkin and created a jack-o-lantern.


We carved a jack-o-lantern with triangular eyes and a mouth from an orange pumpkin. 

3. Take Photos with One's Mind

The fall season is a perfect time for students to create photographs with words instead of a camera. The assignment I gave them was to walk around in a scenic area or attend a fall festival or visit a department store that was decorated for the season and take snapshots of what they see. Then their assignment was to write a descriptive paragraph or two and describe the scene using vivid words.

If students do not have a camera or a phone, they can take notes as they walk around and then write a descriptive paragraph or two to describe the scene using vivid words.

If possible, display the photos and let the class compare them to the descriptions as the students read their assignments aloud.

Here are two photos you may want to use.


If you would like a no-prep lesson with examples and suggested songs, you will find it in my TpT store here.


If you would like a no-prep lesson with sentence-combining activities, you will find it in my store here.

I hope these will give you some great ideas for the fall season. They worked well in my classroom, and my students enjoyed them.

Here are some blog posts from my friends who are members of the Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. Their posts always have great tips and ideas.

Thanks for reading,



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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Video Lessons Make Teaching Grammar Easy

Have you noticed how many students are all about videos? My grandson can learn how to do anything he wishes by watching YouTube, and he prefers watching videos, although he also loves to read.

I’ve spent many hours throughout the summer creating instructional videos and practice worksheets to accompany my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense High School Grammar Book. They will also be helpful for teachers who use the Simple Steps to Sentence Sense Middle School Grammar Book.
My goal is to make the lessons and activities clearer for 
visual and auditory learners while also providing worksheets to encourage students to analyze sentences on their own. 

I also hope that watching these videos will help teachers prepare for each step before presenting it to their students. 
In the videos, I talk directly to the students and explain each step in the program. The videos include:
  •  How to Use Sam (Sentence Analysis Map)
  •  Step 1 – Finding the Prepositional Phrases
  •  Step 2 – Finding the Verb
  •  Step 3 – Finding the Subject
  •  Step 4A – Finding the Action Verb Complements (Direct Object, Indirect Object, and Objective Complement)
  • Step 4L – Finding the Linking Verb Complements (Predicate Nominative and Predicate Adjective)
  •  Step 5 – Finding Adjectives and Adverbs 
  •  Step 6 – Finding Phrases (Participial, Gerund, Infinitive, and Appositive)
  •  Step 7 – Finding Clauses (Independent, Adjective, Adverb, and Noun)
  • Step 8 – Classifying sentences (Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound/Complex)
As I explain each step, I tell students the tips and tricks that I used with my own students. Even the most reluctant learner can understand and be successful when using my method of learning grammar. Learning grammar does not have to be difficult.
You can use the videos as an introduction before you start each step in the book or as a follow-up to be sure they have mastered each step before they move on to the next. If you are familiar with my grammar program, you know that it’s all about the sequence in which you teach sentence analysis. It’s easy if you follow the steps in order. Your students will make good grades and be successful. 
These videos are a valuable tool to use with students who enter your classroom late in the year and need to catch up with your class. They are also helpful for students who are absent and miss the class in which you presented the lesson. 
Here is a link to the (FREE to you) Step One 
Video: Finding Prepositional Phrases.
You can buy the videos individually as needed, or you can save 20% off the individual resources if you buy the bundle. You will find these videos here in my TpT store.

Thanks for reading,

Below you will find some helpful and interesting blog posts from my teacher friends in The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marking Cooperative. If you would like to join this helpful marketing cooperative, you can find more information here. 

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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Warm Up Your Students' Writing Skills

Here comes back to school, ready or not! 

It’s that time of year when only we teachers understand feeling sad to see the end of summer, but at the same time, feeling excited to meet a new group of students who will quickly become an important part of our lives.
ELA students usually need a warm-up to sharpen their writing skills Here are some thoughts for an ELA lesson you might find helpful. This is how I presented it to my students.
~ ~ ~
Sentence combining is a writing process that can enrich your writing and help you make good stylistic choices. The best way to learn to write is to write and write and … well, you get it.
This technique challenges you to look at a group of basic sentences and then determine how they could best be combined into one or more interesting sentences that will have more style and make more interesting reading.
Moving words, phrases, and clauses into different positions and combining them can transform a sentence.
For example:
The athlete is talented.
The athlete is learning skills.
The skills are new.
The skills are difficult.
One way to combine these basic sentences might be:
The talented athlete is learning new and difficult skills.
Here’s another set of basic sentences to combine:
There was a car.
The car was red.
The car had a luxurious interior.
The interior was black.
The interior was leather.
You could combine these basic sentences like this:
The red car had a luxurious black leather interior.
A luxurious black leather interior was in the red car.
Which one is better? That is a matter of opinion. Yours.
Here’s one cluster of sentences to combine. You try it. 
Combine these five basic sentences into one sentence with style.
He thought about his dorm room.
It was narrow.
It had a low ceiling,
It smelled like pizza.
The smell was stale.
(At this point, I would give my students an exercise to practice combining sentences.)
~ ~ ~

If you would like to offer your students more practice with sentence combining, I have four exercises ready to go. You can buy them individually, but the bundle will save you 20% off the individual resources These exercises require no preparation. Everything is ready to print and go. Some of the resources can be used in three ways. Print, use in Google™ Drive, or in Easel™ by TpT.

I hope you have a great school year. You will find a FREE Back-to-School eBook with resources from members of The Best of Teachers Marketing Cooperative (TBOTEMC) here. If you are not a member and would like to join this marketing cooperative, visit this link. 

Thanks for reading,

Here are some great blog posts from my teacher friends on TBOTEMC.

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Sunday, May 22, 2022

How to Correct Mixed Metaphors and Malapropisms

Internet Bloopers Can Be Entertaining

Have you ever noticed while clicking around on the Internet, how often something really funny pops up on your screen? To me, the humor is even more entertaining when it is unintentional. Often the humor comes from someone using a mixed metaphor or a malapropism. They may be funny, but you should avoid them when speaking or writing.


Hints to Avoid the Use of Mixed Metaphors and Malapropisms

A metaphor is a comparison that must contain elements that can be compared logically. The comparison must be consistent. (The sun was a ball in the sky.)

A mixed metaphor combines different images or ideas in a way that is foolish or illogical, and the results are often comical or amusing.

Examples include:

  • “A  leopard can’t change his stripes." – Al Gore
  • “You need to bite the bullet and eat your piece of the pie.” – anonymous

Hints to avoid using mixed metaphors include:

  • Being sure the verb matches the action the subject of the metaphor takes.

(For instance: A car cannot march up a field; it must drive.)

  • Using only one comparison in each metaphor.
  • Avoiding clich├ęs.

A malapropism is the misuse of a word, especially by confusing two words that are similar in sound. You can avoid using malapropisms by choosing your words carefully when you speak or write.

Examples include:

“We broke up because he took me for granite.” –  a high school student

“She has chicken pops.”  my grandson

“He was a man of great statue.” – Thomas Menino, mayor of Boston"

“Be sure and put some of those neutrons on it.” –  Mike Smith, ordering a salad at a restaurant.

You can avoid using malapropisms by choosing your words carefully when you speak or write.

Your students will enjoy pointing out examples to you that they hear or read.

If you want more information and a practice exercise you can print or use in Google Drive and Easel, click here.

I hope fun and a restful summer break are within your sight. You deserve every moment of it. Feel free to email me at any time with suggestions for lessons that would be helpful for your students.

Thanks for reading,


Here are some interesting blog posts from my friends in The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Make an Old Story New Again

Some say there are only three types of plots:

The happy ending, the unhappy ending, and the classical Greek tragic ending in which events are controlled by fate.

There are many variations on these three plots, of course, and plots are always controlled by the conflict between the characters. 

Remember the conflicts taught in high school literature classes?
  • character vs character
  • character vs nature
  • character vs the environment
  • character vs machine
  • character vs the supernatural
  • character vs self
  • character vs religion

The point? It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Coming up with a new plot that has never been written is improbable. So, take a cue from many modern writers and rework a plot from a story you've read or a movie you've seen.

There are many examples of revised plots. For example, Romeo and Juliet was adapted as the musical, West Side Story, and the typical spaghetti western novel was transformed into Star Wars. The same classic plots, but oh so different in every other way.

So, if you have trouble coming up with an idea, just work with a classic plot and start changing all the other elements to make it your own story.
  • Change the setting.
  • Change the point-of-view. Tell the story through the mind of a different character than in the original story. 
  • Choose a classic plot and bring it into the modern age. Choose a fairy tale, an epic poem, a classic novel, a Bible story, or a myth. 
  • Keep the conflict from a novel or play or movie and change everything else. (Change characters, point-of-view, plot, setting, etc.)
  • Change the protagonist from male to female or child to adult.
In my creative writing classes, I had my students watch both True Grit and Shane. Then they had to outline two original stories using the same plots as the movies but the settings would be in the present day. They had to invent their own characters and settings, but the basic plot and the themes were to remain the same as in the movies they saw. My students wrote some great stories and told me they loved doing the assignment.

Remember, if you base your writing on a plot and then make it your own by using your own words, you will not be plagiarizing. An idea cannot be copyrighted.

So, don't take too much time reinventing the wheel. Just think of books and movies that you really enjoyed. If you liked the plot or the theme, use it, but change all the other elements.

You will find many creative writing ideas and resources in my TpT store. Take a look. You will save 20% if you purchase the resources in a bundle. 

Thanks for reading,

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